The original Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver was a good game held back from greatness by a terrible ending that simply screamed "unfinished." Great sales, combined with the public outcry as a result of the cliffhanger ending, led to the inevitable sequel. Dropping "Legacy of Kain" from the title, Soul Reaver 2 is a fun game that builds on some of the strengths of the original, eliminates a few of the weaknesses, and makes a few unfortunate mistakes along the way.
The original game is definitely a prerequisite to playing the sequel in terms of getting caught up with the storyline, though not mandatory, as Soul Reaver 2 is good enough to warrant play by itself. Action begins with Raziel, the hero from the first game chasing his creator Kain through a portal with intent to kill, exactly where the original left off. The overall mission is identical: Kain must die, preferably by Raziel's hands.
The straightforward plot has enough twists to provide a gripping story throughout the entire sequel, but, unfortunately, Soul Reaver 2 ends almost as abruptly as its predecessor. Hopes that Crystal Dynamics would draw the story to a conclusion, or at the very least bring closure to the specific chapter, are dashed. Instead, another cliffhanger is foisted on fans of the game, delaying the inevitable climax that will hopefully appear in the next game of the series.
Gameplay in Soul Reaver 2 strays little from its roots. While the first game was heavily built around block puzzles, the sequel instead relies on key hunts. Both types of puzzles are known clichés in the gaming world, and which is worse is a matter of personal perspective. The switch of puzzle type doesn't add or take away anything from the game, but missing from the sequel is the interesting element of boss fights. Raziel fought a few of his brothers in Legacy of Kain, and each fight was an interesting puzzle in itself, rarely relying on combat alone. The level bosses provided added incentive and something to look forward to, but Soul Reaver 2 lamentably has none, though the omission doesn't take away as much from gameplay as you might think.
Fights in Soul Reaver 2 are a lot more straightforward. Raziel starts with the titular Soul Reaver sword and no longer requires full health to summon it. He still gains a few powers along his journey, but starting the game with this blade means there's no more hunting for spikes, flames, or pools of water to help slay the various vampire enemies he encounters.
Saving can still only be done in certain areas of the game, a sure sign of the series' console roots, but is not a hardship. In fact, the ability to save anywhere is a welcome feature of the PC, but being able to do so during Soul Reaver 2 would remove all tension. The game is designed to have limited saving ability, and anything else would detract from the suspense, especially when the immortality of Raziel is factored in the equation. When Raziel's life bar depletes, he doesn't "die," he's just forced back into the spiritual realm, just as in the first game.
While Soul Reaver 2's visuals aren't the absolute height of graphical splendor on the PC, they look simply amazing nonetheless. The environments are fantastic, the majority of the enemies are equally well modeled, and the main character, Raziel, is superbly rendered and animated. Though questionable texturing appears here and there, Soul Reaver 2 is otherwise largely stunning, even more so than the original. Sound is another excellent trait continued from the original, with the same high quality voice acting. While the actors sound a bit too melodramatic at times, the cast once again is awesome and provides some of the best voice work found in a video game.
Despite the lack of climactic boss battles and a heavy emphasis on backtracking and key finding to solve some puzzles, Soul Reaver 2 still manages to be a lot of fun. The story is narrated perfectly, and the environment makes exploring a pleasure. It's a testament to Soul Reaver 2 that faults that would normally cripple most other games can easily be overlooked in favor of the overall experience.
Graphics: Not the pinnacle of PC graphics, but still amazing. Huge, stunning environments make new areas a joy to explore, and all of the characters are nicely animated.
Sound: A superb and moody soundtrack is overshadowed by an awesome voice cast. The drama can be a little thick, but that's the nature of the story -- first rate voice work.
Enjoyment: Backtracking, key hunting, and the lack of boss battles hold the game back from perfection.
Replay Value: Unfortunately, with no extras or story changes, there's little reason to replay the story.
People who downloaded Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2 have also downloaded:
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, Legacy of Kain: Defiance, Blood Omen 2, Outcast, Silent Hill 3, Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, Lord of the Rings, The: The Fellowship of the Ring, American McGee's Alice
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